What to Expect During a Water Damage Inspection

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 13, 2024

It might be the aftermath of storm flooding at your business. Faulty plumbing leaves you facing serious water damage at the house.

You want to get things repaired, cleaned up and back to normal as soon as possible. You need a comprehensive water damage inspection performed by experienced professionals.

Based on experience conducting water damage inspections and repairs for thousands of residents in Chicago, we put together this guide to help you understand what a water damage inspection entails, why it’s important and how to get one.

Let’s dive in.

What Is a Water Damage Inspection?

water damage inspection moisture in ceiling

A water damage inspection is the first step toward fully restoring your home or business.

An industry-certified restoration contractor like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba follows an established process that determines what caused the damage and how widespread it is.

Their assessment covers important factors that impact your personal safety and your property’s structural integrity.

All damages are documented and summarized so that you have a clear picture of your losses and information for filing a water damage insurance claim.

Once the inspection is completed, property restoration begins immediately with your approval.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what to expect from a professional water damage inspection.

What Happens During the Water Damage Inspection Process?

source of water damage

It might be the result of fire damages after first responders put out the flames. Severe weather, burst pipes and backed-up sewer lines are typical causes of water damage.

Regardless of the source, an experienced restoration contractor develops his or her assessment with the following four-step damage inspection process.

1. Identify the Water Source

Restoration specialists quickly identify and address the source of water damage.

If you’re dealing with burst pipes under a sink, technicians take care of repairs right away. If a plumbing leak is hidden behind walls or up in ceilings, they locate the problem and solve it.

Because water damage spreads rapidly, nearby areas are also closely examined. For example:

A flood in the basement after a weather event has an obvious source. A professional inspection can still be a big help.

It identifies issues like hairline cracks and exterior drainage problems that contribute to flood damage in basements.

2. Confirm the Type of Water

It’s important to determine the type of water damage in your home or business.

If restoration technicians detect any level of contamination, they factor that into developing a property cleanup strategy.

This is done to protect your health and ensure the safest possible restoration process. If your property is impacted by dangerously contaminated water, you’re advised to evacuate.

If contamination levels are manageable, you’re asked to avoid the affected areas until they’ve been cleaned and sanitized.

These three types of water contamination are defined by regulatory and industry standards.

Category 1: This category is called white water. It’s free of contamination and usually cleans up easily. White water is typically the result of leaking faucets, burst pipes or broken water heaters. It’s important to note that Category 1 water can quickly become contaminated if it isn’t cleaned up right away.

Category 2: There are some pollutants in Category 2 gray water, but they aren’t considered highly toxic. For example, gray water is often contaminated by detergents, fabric softeners and bath soaps. Sources of gray water include broken washing machines, dishwashers and kitchen and bath drain pipes.

Category 3: Also known as black water, Category 3 water is highly contaminated and extremely hazardous. Restoration teams take extra precautions to guarantee personal and property safety during the cleanup process. Natural flood events, toilet backflows and sewage pipe problems are the most common sources of black water.

sewage backup inspection

3. Determine the Extent of Damages

Water damage soaks subflooring, wicks into drywall and spreads moisture into studs and framing.

Industry-trained technicians use both pin and electromagnetic moisture meters to measure surface moisture density and locate hidden water damage.

Advanced thermal imaging equipment is used to zero in on damaged areas.

Technicians also classify property damage by type so that the information can be included in your insurance claim.

  • Pre-Existing Damage: This category covers damages that were present before water damage occurred.
  • Primary Damage: These damages are a direct result of water that impacts your property.
  • Secondary Damage: The aftermath of a water event often leaves behind secondary damages, such as sagging drywall, warped flooring and unhealthy mold growth.

4. Outline a Detailed Action Plan

This final inspection step gives you an accurate overview of damages outlined in an action plan.

It details the proposed restoration process from cleanup and water extraction to structural drying and mold remediation.

Knowing what to expect makes it easier to maintain your schedule at home or your business as the work progresses.

Other important information typically covered includes:

  • Determination of overall property safety and structural integrity
  • Confirmation of electrical and plumbing system condition
  • Breakdown of locations and levels of water damage
  • Initial assessment of what can and cannot be salvaged
  • Expected material tear-outs, replacements and reconstruction
  • Estimated cost of repairs, mitigation, remediation and restoration


A professional restoration contractor gives you an honest evaluation of what needs to be done and suggests a working schedule.

The plan provides you with solid documentation necessary for filing your water damage claim.

In most cases, you’ll want to approve the plan as soon as possible. Even minor water damage can quickly turn into serious, long-term problems.

Once you give the restoration company your go-ahead, their teams start the recovery process.

They can also begin working with your insurance carrier to expedite filing your water-damage claim.

How Much Does a Water Damage Inspection Cost

The cost of a water damage inspection varies. The job requires a thorough on-site survey and detailed assessment. Property size and the extent of damages factor into the inspection cost.

There may be emergency service costs.

For example, the technicians might need to repair broken pipes right away. After storm flooding, a damaged home or commercial building may need board-up services.

A reputable restoration contractor always explains your options and gives you a written estimate that outlines the cost of water damage repair.

He or she also discusses other situations that can affect the cost estimate, including:

Check the restoration company’s website for details about their water damage restoration process.

Call the office, and confirm the information. A trustworthy business answers all your questions without hesitation.

water damage restoration company chicago

What About Filing a Claim with My Homeowners’ Insurance?

Most property insurance policies cover the cost of water damage repairs, cleanup and restoration.

Filing a claim can be complicated, but solid documentation speeds up the process. This is one of the reasons a water damage inspection performed by a professional restoration contractor is so important.

You may want to let the restoration company deal with your insurance carrier throughout the entire process.

Many homeowners and businesses prefer this option because it streamlines the paperwork, from initial inspection to job completion.

Insurance carriers routinely work with restoration contractors who maintain Quality Restoration Vendor status. This designation is earned by companies with solid track records and industry certification.

For example, ServiceMaster by Zaba maintains QVR status with local and national insurance companies. Part of our standing is based on our IICRC certification.

When you work with our restoration specialists, you partner with an established company experienced in navigating insurance paperwork.

Our knowledgeable staff handles all the details, and that helps you get the most from your homeowners insurance claim. We can also assist with filing National Flood Insurance Program claims.

Need a Water Damage Inspection in Chicago, IL? Turn to ServiceMaster by Zaba!

When you need a water damage inspection, you want it taken care of by industry-certified professionals.

As Chicago’s leading water damage specialists, we bring more than 90 years of combined field experience to the inspection process.

You can trust ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba for a detailed assessment, an honest estimate and genuine customer care.

We’re ready to help with your homeowner’s insurance, and we assist business owners with property insurance too.

Our teams are at your service and available 24/7. You can reach our expert staff at 773-647-1985